How to Speed Read

These last couple of weeks have been homework-free for me. As much as I’d like to think that it’s because I did it all in advance, that’s not true. I’ve been slacking off quite a lot, and the 50-page articles that need to be read are finally catching up with me. After calculating how much time I need to read through everything carefully I realized it may be physically impossible after such a long break. So I figured now is the time to learn about some speed reading techniques and share them with you guys.

Speed reading: what is it and how is it learned?

I can’t how many times I’ve tried skimming through long texts, thinking I’m a pro at speed reading and not understanding why it’s so hard for others to learn. Well, it turned out I wasn’t speed reading at all – I was just looking through words without comprehending what they said, and in the end I didn’t remember anything. I’ll tell you right off the bat that speed reading is a science, and is not easily conquered. It takes knowledge of technique and lots, lots of practice. So there are a couple components to speed reading that need to be mastered: getting rid of sub-vocalization, reading in chunks and getting the big picture. These are the simplest terms I could come up with, but there are tons of articles that talk about it in more detail (see links at the end).

How to Speed Read
1. Getting the big picture

When starting to speed read the text, it’s important to know what the text is about. Spend a couple minutes looking and thinking about the title, some headings, keywords and perhaps footnotes. This will help you get the gist of the main idea and put things together when you start to speed read the text. Jotting down some notes when you get to an important idea is something to consider as well – remembering the material after speed reading it may be incredibly difficult.

2. Chunking

This is not the same as chunking to memorize things, but the general idea is the same – group words together to get through them faster. This also helps with not vocalizing them out loud, by the way, so these two things kind of help each other. If we read word by word and try to get the meaning of each one of them, we won’t get through the text even if we tried. But chunking those words into phrases and looking at the general idea works a bit better.

3. Sub-vocalization

When we read (and as you are reading now), we tend to pronounce every word in our head. Read this now, are you hearing your mind saying these words out loud? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. The deal with sub-vocalization is that it slows us down immensely, and more often than not doesn’t even help with comprehending the material. To get started of the righteous path to speed reading, we need to get rid of that little voice.
It’s important to remember, though, that you can’t speed read through every text. Some texts, like novels and poetry, are not made to be skimmed through. I found that this technique works wonderfully with scientific article – the headings and conclusions are pretty clear to find and understand, and they are all structured pretty much the same way so I know where to look for what I need.

Here are those articles about speed reading I promised earlier:

The Truth About Speed Reading – methods, do’s and don’t’s and some more tips

Scientific Speed Reading: How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes – a great, very detailed guide with techniques and tips

What Speed Do You Read? – some help from Staples!

Speed Reading: Learning to Read More Efficiently – MindTools puts everything together in one place, I read this guide

You Can’t Speed Read Literature – another view on speed reading

Spritz – a wonderful app that breaks down articles word by word for speed reading

Accelerated Speed Reading Trainer – available for both iOS and Android, yay!

Read Quick – Speed Reading for iOS – okay, I love this one.

How do you get through long texts? What do you do to read faster? Share below!

  • Michael Mayers

    If anything you want to read is either a PDF, TXT or Word document, or a Website/Blog/Wikipedia entry then you can try https://SpeedRead.io.

    It uses a scientifically proven technique called “Rapid Serial Visual Presentation” (or RSVP for short). By presenting words one after the other in the same place it removes the need for your eyes to move from left to right. By avoiding this movement you can massively increase the speed at which you can read and take in information. In fact, may people are using this technique to triple their reading speed or more.

    You can also get a taste of the reading experience here with some free classic books: https://SpeedRead.io/free-classics.

  • Pingback: Link Round-Up: Tweets and a Video()

  • These are great tips!! Thanks for sharing.
    Sophia
    someplaceinthemidst.blogspot.com

    • Kat

      Thanks Sophia!